WHO raises swine flu alert to highest pandemic level (Lead)

June 12th, 2009 - 1:15 am ICT by IANS  

Geneva, June 11 (DPA) The World Health Organisation (WHO) Thursday raised its alert against influenza A (H1N1) to the highest Phase 6, declaring it to be a pandemic.
“The scientific criteria for an influenza pandemic have been met,” WHO Director General Margaret Chan said, adding: “I have decided, therefore, to raise the influenza pandemic alert from phase 5 to phase 6.”

Marie-Paul Kieny, the agency’s expert on vaccines, said she expected a vaccine against the swine flu to be ready in September.

“When enough evidence is available in the coming weeks, we will make policy recommendations for which groups should receive the first doses,” she noted.

For the time being though, Chan said, “further spread is considered inevitable”.

But she said there should be “no restrictions on travel and no border closures”. Chan also said governments should not impose trade bans.

Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s chief of health security, said it was important for people “not to get overly anxious.”

“This is one of those things that it is good for people to know about. But it is really good for the average person to take it in perspective,” he added.

After the virus continued to spread for several months, Fukuda said, people would begin to develop immunity and it would “become much more like regular season virus.”

Regarding severity, Chan said the “overwhelming majority of patients experience mild symptoms and make a rapid recovery.”

The WHO’s scientific evidence, gathered from affected countries, indicated that the virus was not changing in any way from when it was first detected.

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